Icons Members.jpg

and Delegates

Members and Delegates Update - May 2019

2019 is galloping away.  The Board and Staff of Biolinks Alliance has been very busy with fundraising and a growing list of projects.  This Update to members and delegates – and to all the members of your groups - covers these activities and more – so read on. And please pass this on to your members.  If you have queries, please let us know.  We look forward to catching up with many of you at the Symposium in Euroa on 24th May.

2019 Symposium ‘Bolstering the Refuges: Restoring health and resilience to remnant ecosystems at a time of climate change’

Friday 24th May 2019 at the Euroa Memorial Oval, 2 Dunn St, Euroa

We would like to see you and other members of your groups across central Victoria, so please spread the word.  Bookings are open but time is pressing, so please book asap.  The program is very strong and practically focused around central Victorian issues so it will be a day not to be missed. As well as the science it great chance to catch up with other members of the Alliance.

Chair’s Report to the Board, 30 April 2019

Recent events well received but challenges for our fundraising efforts

Since the last Board meeting, we have run some very well attended and well received events – our Local Area Planning “walkshop” at Heathcote under funding from Bendigo Council, and the Peggy Eby fundraising event in Bendigo at the end of March. Both events were very well organised by our team and the response was very positive in terms of attendance, enthusiasm and sentiment. We ended up over subscribing our “walkshop” and received heaps of terrific feedback on the direction we’d like to take in the future (see reports below).

However, I have to say we were disappointed with the immediate fundraising results of the Peggy Eby event.  Donation income was well below that received last year following Gary Tabor’s talk, and certainly well below what we have been aiming to receive in the first half of 2019.  Donations are an important part of our projected income with an ambitious target of $150k for 2019.  But we haven’t managed to get any major donations over the line.  While we have a growing list of people interested in Biolinks Alliance through our events, website and social media, the problem is converting this considerable potential and effort into actual major donations.

On the other hand. we have an increasingly diversified income base from grants, bequests and minor donations.  Many of the grants are for the development of projects rather than the core funding we need for our broader operations.

On the diversification front, considerable effort has recently gone into requesting project funds under the current Federal Election campaign via candidates of the major parties in particular. There are mixed feelings about the chances of success around this bid, but overall it is thought important that we build strong bipartisan links to both State and Federal Governments in order to secure the funding needed to implement our conservation vision in conjunction with the central Victorian community.

Projects with local groups are growing

The Heathcote Local Area Planning “walkshop” on April 14 was very well attended and we got some very encouraging feedback on future directions. 

I would like to emphasise two points in particular: Firstly that the time is right to structure our work and messaging around the urgent need for “ecosystem restoration” in order to combat multiple crises we now face on a global scale (see UN’s “The Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, 2021 – 2030”). And secondly, this necessarily integrates human production systems founded on ecologically based primary production like regenerative agriculture in order to address crises simultaneously. (i.e. carbon/climate, food production, water and biodiversity).

At the Heathcote event, I was struck by the interest from farmers, who were especially hungry for knowledge and information around: landscape function, drought mitigation, sustainable production and biodiversity conservation etc., and the onus must be on us to present a truly integrated and collaborative vision of landscape restoration – and not one that is exclusively focused on bushland and biodiversity (and the usual conservation and Landcare suspects).

Paul Foreman
Chair / Biolinks Alliance

Australia's Great Wildlife Migrations

Biolinks Alliance hosted talk by Peggy Eby at Bendigo on 31st March

This talk was very popular, with around 128 attendees.  Paul reflects on the talk:

Peggy’s talk showed us that Grey-headed Flying Foxes are climate and habitat loss “refugees”.  They have taken up residence in Bendigo, and other urban areas, in response to a warming climate and the destruction of their preferred habitat elsewhere.  This behaviour is telling us something very important, but are we paying attention? Are we listening? and are we responding? 

Many will no doubt recall David Attenborough’s recent extraordinary (and widely reported) address at a UN summit in Europe: “If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”.  The urgent need to rapidly phase out carbon emissions is clear, but at the same time we also have to rapidly remove what has built up in the atmosphere and we have to buffer the globe against the worst impacts until things improve.

Another perhaps lesser known recent development: on March 1, the UN General Assembly in New York – declared “The Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021 – 2030)”, aiming to “massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as a proven measure to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity”;

BA is gearing up to help meet this challenge here in central Victoria by mobilising people, resources and know-how to show how this massive task can work for our precious Box Ironbark Forests, for our grassy ecosystems and for our riverlands and wetlands, and for all the unique and irreplaceable species they support.

We owe this to nature, we owe this to ourselves and we owe this to future generations.  But we have to “roll up our sleeves and get to work” and we have to start acting now;

I have previously said that its crazy to keep doing the same things if they are demonstrably not working (the outlook for biodiversity in Victoria according to the latest SOE report has been characterised as “grim”) and we desperately need to work more as a team if we are going to make a difference.

The status quo of volunteerism and good will isn’t enough – we have to invest heavily and cleverly in fixing past impacts, and not making it any worse in order to sure up the future.

Last year Gary Tabor said that restoring and reconnecting habitat over large scales is not a pipe dream, but part of a “new 21st century approach to conservation”; In other words its doable but it means doing things differently.  We simply can’t afford to go on taking nature for granted or that sustainability doesn’t require real change.

Videos and/or transcripts of the talk will be available on the BA website soon.

Fundraising Program

Executive Director’s report to the Board Meeting on 30th April 2019. 

The two-year HMST Social Impact Grant “Kickstarting CVBA – building the capacity for donor fundraising and a sustainable future” drew to a close April 30. The donor program discussed by Paul was a major part of this project.  Sophie and Karen presented to the HMST Trustees on the project in March and used the opportunity to thank Trustees for their 5 years of support in development of the Alliance and to discuss our future plans. The Trust have offered to help us to develop relationships with other Philanthropics.   

On HMST Trustee Rod Kemp’s advice, we developed brief project proposals around five current projects to put to local MPs and candidates for an election funding pledge. Sophie, Gayle and Linda have presented the proposals totalling $1.4 million as a package to candidates and Karen has developed a broader bi-partisan strategy for the ask.

As well as the donor program and the current project grants, several grant submissions have been made but we are yet to hear the results:

  • to the State Govt Community Climate Change Adaptation grant program for the project “Tailored Guidelines for Climate Ready Revegetation in central Victoria” in partnership with NCCMA and Upper Campaspe Landcare Network. The project would provide a means to develop the Climate Proofing section of the knowledge hub.

  • to the Hazel and Arthur Bruce Bequest for support for the 2019 Symposium – thanks to Ann identifying and writing the proposal.

  • to Perpetual Impact Funding for “Glideways in the Melbourne Ark: building the capacity for inclusive and effective landscape conservation in the 21st Century” for $97,000.

  • The Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation has just announced their Thrive Grant round that supports networks and organisational capacity building opening 29 April, closing 15 May. We will try for some core funding at this critical time with the HMST support at an end.

Sophie Bickford
Executive Director / Biolinks Alliance


Biolinks Alliance is involved in many community projects with member groups and other organisations across Central Victoria.  Progress continues to be made with these local area and project planning initiatives.

DELWP-funded local-to landscape planning project: 

This project was originally funded for four separate projects but we decided to focus on one main project as a trial of our planning processes and prepare proposals for two others.  What came out of this grant was:

  • an abbreviated L2L process in Wedderburn, including a “visioning” workshop led by Paul Foreman (see here – with more to be added).  The outcome was Restoring Leaky Landscapes: A model of repairing damaged landscapes and protecting threatened species in the age of Climate Change).  This wil be used as a prospectus for future funding applications.

  • a proposal for a full L2L process in the Macedon Region (Glideways in the Melbourne Ark: Community, collaboration and knowledge to restore Glider populations in the Macedon Ranges)

  • a proposal for a full L2L process with Project Platypus:  Platypus recovery in the Mt Cole creek: a community lead landscape approach to bring back an Icon species.

Funding was provided by a DELWP Community Skills Development Grant.  Proposals for all three projects were written up and submitted as part of the federal Govt election funding ask.

City of Greater Bendigo Partnership Grant in Heathcote.

This project aims to develop projects and a prospectus for further investment in bolink projects in the Heathcote area.  Initial meetings led to the very popular Walkshop reported above.  The project is continuing.

RE Ross Trust Grant:  Glideways in the Melbourne Ark; connecting science and practice to reconnect landscapes.

This project is funded over two years and involves project planning (possibly towards prospectuses) in two locations in the Melbourne Ark: Strathbogie Range’s and South West Goulburn.  Scoping meetings have started the process but further progress has been trumped by other pressing Alliance business. Resolutions to this issue are being looked into.

The Yam Project – a Project with Traditional Owners

Paul has spoken to Latrobe University who are setting up a project on aboriginal land management, particularly around traditional foods and the use of fire.  Bruce Pascoe is an advisor.  The project will have research and applied components, and will be done on public and private land in central Victoria.  Research will be done by Latrobe staff and students.  BA can be involved and receive some funding.  The project could be integrated with current projects around lost landscapes (grassy ecosystems, soaks, etc) and may link with projects around Wedderburn.  We will have more information in September.

More on the Heathcote Walkshop

The Walkshop was part of the process to develop projects and a prospectus for the Heathcote area funded by Bendigo City Council.  Over 50 people attended the event.  It was led by Paul Foreman in conjunction with Shane Monk (Taungurung Clans Traditional Owner) and Jon Fawcett (Hydrogeologist – see his talk to last year’s Waterscapes Symposium here).   Paul made notes on the event:

Contrasting three different local landscapes in the broader Wild Duck Creek and Heathcote regional study area:

1.  Pyalong: A more or less cleared agricultural landscape (relictual) with steep terrain and dissected drainage in the uplands at the margins of a the Cobaw Granites (and a metamorphic aureole); Used for stock grazing and generally not suited to other intensive land uses; Some isolated patches of threatened habitat such as springs and grassy woodland that could be habitat for threatened species;

2. Spring Plains NCR: A regrowth landscape (variegated) on a crown reserve that has been subject to intensive alluvial gold mining and firewood/timber harvesting before being converted to an NCR in the last 20 years; Box Ironbark vegetation that is habitat to Swift Parrot and other declining woodland birds and mammals;

3. Vaughans Lane: A regenerating fragmented landscape that was formerly broad acre agriculture before being more recently subdivided into vineyards, hobby farms and lifestyle blocks; Some isolated remnants and widespread regeneration and some revegetation; Mix of Box Ironbark (upslope) and grassy woodland (lower slopes);

The aim of the day was to visit each landscape to discuss how each functions (works) ecologically, the impacts of land use and future threats, what is needed to restore landscape health to prevent species extinctions and mitigate against Climate Change, and how this might be approached in practice and in the context of sustainable land uses.

Biolinks hopes to work with the local community to develop and implement at least one landscape scale restoration project based on principles discussed and the development of a shared long term vision of landscape repair, biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use.

Themes of the day were:

  • Incorporating Indigenous perspective;

  • Recognising and restoring biodiversity;

  • Reading landscape patterns and processes (e.g. hydrology and groundwater; connectivity, productivity etc.)

  • Regenerative agricultural – integrating humans and nature; and

  • How to achieve change and practical solutions.

One participant appreciated that he was not being preached at – it was an inclusive discussion.  And, after the event, participants were eager for more information on the range of themes.  There is a lot of scope for BA’s on-line Knowledge Hub and future talks and walks.

Knowledge Hub

Biokinks Alliance continues to provide both talks and symposia and on-line materials for further reading.  All the talks from previous symposia have been transcribed onto the website and this will continue.  Please check out the Knowledge Hub.

Deer management

Across Central Victoria, deer have become a big issue for farmers, road users and the environment.  The Victorian National Parks Association have developed an open letter to the three responsible ministers in response to Victoria’s Draft Deer Management Strategy (2018) that fell far short of addressing the considerable problems feral deer bring to peri-urban and regional communities, and to wetlands, catchments and the natural environment.  The letter (here) calls for “strong and effective feral deer management strategy for Victoria”.  This strategy is a critical for controlling deer populations and reversing the increasing impacts they are having. 

Biolinks Alliance was a signatory to this letter.  It is part of our ongoing involvement with the development of strategies by the State Government.

Board and staff

The current Board comprises:  Paul Foreman (Chair), Karen Alexander (Vice-chair), Peter Mitchell (Secretary), Pat Scanlon (Treasurer), Ann McGregor, James Nelsson, Gayle Osbourne and Loki McIntyre.  We have been fortunate in finding an excellent Treasurer in Pat who started in February.  We continue to seek new recruits who can bring skills to the board and/or represent our members.

Sophie Bickford continues as our very busy and amazingly productive Executive Director, with Linda Parlane as Philanthropy Manager and Ellie McKenna who joined us recently as Program Manager and general support for Sophie.

We have had two meetings of the Board so far this year – on 12th February and 20th March.  Most of the interesting stuff from these meetings is covered elsewhere in this update but you are welcome to check out the minutes and reports here and here

Over the past nine months, the Board and staff have also been involved in discussions with advisors/facilitators to develop both strategic plans and operational plans that match our aspirations to our budget realities.  This will continue with a Strategic Plan workshop slated for Saturday 15th to Sunday 16th June 2019 in Kyneton.